To say there is a lot to see at TIFF this year is one of the bigger understatement of festival season. The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival has programmed more than 200 films over 10 days — from Sept. 7–17 — beginning with a history-making opening night movie selection and closing with a documentary about three-time Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone.
Between those two films, TIFF's slate features new works from filmmakers like Justine Triet (with her Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall), Richard Linklater (Hit Man), Hirokazu Kore-eda (Monster), Alexander Payne (The Holdovers), Alice Rohrwacher (La Chimera), and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Nyad), among many, many more. There are also documentaries about everyone from Nickelback to Lil Nas X, as well as a 40th anniversary screening of Stop Making Sense — with a new 4K restoration of The Talking Heads' classic concert movie directed by Jonathan Demme.
Last year, TIFF ended with Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans winning the festival's much-coveted People's Choice Award. Below, check out A.frame's guide to 10 of our most anticipated films world premiering at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron will serve as TIFF's opening night film — the first time in history that an animated film has opened the festival. Legendary anime master and Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) returns 10 years after The Wind Rises with a movie that has been shrouded in secrecy, despite Studio Ghibli having released it in Japan this summer. Still, all we know about The Boy and the Heron ahead of its international debut is this premise: "A young boy named Mahito, yearning for his mother, ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning."
Close to You
Oscar nominee Elliot Page's first film role since coming out as trans in 2020 is a homecoming in more ways than one: Back to his native Canada — where Close to You is set — and to the indie filmmaking scene, from which he broke out with 2007's Juno. Page, who co-wrote and produced the film with BAFTA-winning director Dominic Savage, stars as Sam, who is heading home for the first time since transitioning. When he encounters an old high school friend (played by Hillary Baack), he is forced to confront his past in order to "live unapologetically as the person he has always been."
Director Craig Gillespie was last at TIFF to debut his Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, which received three nominations at the 90th Academy Awards and won Allison Janney the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Following a detour to Disney to helm Cruella, Gillespie returns to Toronto to premiere Dumb Money, the bonkers true story of the Reddit investors who got rich by betting on GameStop, turning Wall Street on its head in the process. The ensemble dramedy stars Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, America Ferrera, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen.
This year's TIFF slate features a number of debuts from actors-turned-directors, including Kristin Scott Thomas (North Star), Chris Pine (Poolman), and Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, whose feature Gonzo Girl will open the Discovery programme. (Discovery is "a bold and exciting showcase of cinema and emerging talent from around the world.") Based on Cheryl Della Pietra's semi-autobiographical novel about her time as Hunter S. Thompson's personal assistant, Gonzo Girl centers on aspiring writer Alley Russo (Camila Morrone), as she takes a job working for legendary journalist Walker Reade (four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe).
Ellen Kuras is perhaps best known as the pioneering cinematographer behind films by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Spike Lee (Summer of Sam), and Martin Scorsese (No Direction Home). She is also an Oscar-nominated filmmaker in her own right (Best Documentary Feature Film for 2008's The Betrayal) making her narrative directorial debut with Lee, a biopic of fashion model-turned-war correspondent Elizabeth "Lee" Miller. Oscar winner Kate Winslet plays Miller, alongside Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Marion Cotillard, Josh O'Connor, and Andy Samberg. To shoot her film, Kuras enlisted cinematographer Pawel Edelman, himself an Oscar nominee for 2002's The Pianist.
Next Goal Wins
Taika Waititi's last TIFF offering was 2019's Jojo Rabbit, which took home the festival's People's Choice Award on its way to six total Oscar nominations — including Best Picture — and eventual Best Adapted Screenplay win for Waititi. He's now back with Next Goal Wins, based on the 2014 documentary of the same name, which stars two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rongen, a down-on-his-luck coach enlisted to help the American Samoa soccer team qualify for the World Cup. The cast includes Elisabeth Moss, Oscar Kightley, Uli Latukefu, Rachel House, Kaimana, Will Arnett, and Waititi in a cameo role.
David Yates hasn't directed a film outside the confines of the Wizarding World since 2016's The Legend of Tarzan, which he squeezed in between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Pain Hustlers is something completely different: A dark dramedy about a single mom (Emily Blunt) and a sales rep (Chris Evans) who try to get rich fast at a failing pharmaceutical start-up and unwittingly help kickstart the opioid epidemic. Based on the nonfiction book by Evan Hughes, the film also stars Oscar nominee Andy Garcia and Catherine O'Hara.
Nearly a decade and a half after collaborating on the 2009 thriller Chloe, writer-director Atom Egoyan and Amanda Seyfried have reunited for Seven Veils. (The former is a two-time Oscar nominee for 1998's The Sweet Hereafter; the latter is an Oscar nominee for her performance in 2020's Mank.) The psychodrama follows a theater director (Seyfried) tasked with remounting a production of Salome following the death of its director — her mentor — which resurfaces repressed trauma from her past. In a meta touch, Seven Veils incorporates this year's Canadian Opera Company production of Salome, which Egoyan directed.
Woman of the Hour
Another first-time director, Anna Kendrick (already an Oscar-nominated actor for 2009's Up in the Air) directs Woman of the Hour from a script by Ian MacAllister McDonald. The drama is based on the true story of serial killer Rodney Alcala, who brazenly appeared on The Dating Game in the midst of a murder spree in the 1970s and ultimately won a date with bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw (played by Kendrick). Woman of the Hour co-stars Daniel Zovatto as Alcala, plus Tony Hale and Nicolette Robinson.
Filmmaker Jessica Yu won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film with 1996's Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, about a poet and journalist who spent most of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio. Her new comedy showcases her range as a director: Quiz Lady follows two estranged sisters as they work together to pay of their mother's gambling debts by becoming game show champions. Awkwafina and Sandra Oh delightfully play against type, with the former as the tightly wound Anne and Oh as the train wreck big sister, Jenny, with a cast that also includes Jason Schwartzman, Tony Hale, Holland Taylor, Jon "Dumbfoundead" Park, and Will Ferrell.